January 29, 2019 / 6:36 PM / 10 months ago

Rockwell Automation sticks to China outlook as peers sound alarm

(Reuters) - U.S. factory equipment maker Rockwell Automation Inc on Tuesday stuck to its previous outlook for sales in China, in contrast to a number of warnings from manufacturing peers, predicting it would grow at a stable pace in fiscal 2019.

Wall Street investors have been spooked by bleak forecasts from a range of companies including iPhone maker Apple Inc and heavy machinery producer Caterpillar Inc, fanning fears trade tensions and a slowing Chinese economy will quell future profits.

Rockwell, which beat analysts’ expectations for profit in its quarter ended Dec. 31, reaffirmed a forecast from November that its Chinese sales growth would slow from double-digits in fiscal 2018 to “mid, single digit” in 2019.

That compared to Caterpillar’s warning that sales in the country would be flat in the construction sector versus 40 percent growth in 2018.

Rockwell said it was benefiting from rising demand for automation equipment for electric car production in China, even as sales of traditional cars slow, as well as increased investment in mass transit systems.

“In China we are seeing some of the strongest adoption of our technology in electric vehicle production,” Chief Executive Officer Blake Moret told Reuters in a phone interview after publication of the quarterly results.

“We had good wins (in fiscal 2018) and this year continues that,” he added, pointing to China’s expanding metro lines.

Rockwell’s automation equipment for factories is used by a range of industries running from beermakers to chipmakers to train track producers.

Beijing is pushing ahead with plans to invest in 6,800 kilometers (4,225 miles) worth of new railway lines in 2019, a 40 percent jump from the length of tracks laid last year.

Shares of Rockwell rose as much as 7.2 percent to $175 in morning trade after the results and conference call.

Rockwell said it was also seeing stable demand for its equipment from life sciences and semiconductor industries in China.

Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham

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